Freedom and Authentic Political Action: A Critical Examination of Hannah Arendt’s Philosophical Analysis of the French Revolution

By: Stephanie Levin '11

Advising Faculty: N/A

The question, "what is political action?" actually breaks down into two closely connected questions: what kinds of action are political? And what about those actions make them political? My first goal is to come to an understanding of what politics actually is, which is essential for an understanding of freedom, and a step towards accomplishing the second goal of this paper: to examine and critique Arendt’s philosophical analysis of the French Revolution. I shall argue that because Arendt fails to distinguish between the activities of politics and the activities of institutional government, freedom as she defines it cannot be founded within an institution. Consequently, her conclusion that the French Revolution failed because it did not result in the foundation of freedom is ultimately flawed.

Related Fields: Philosophy